Dehydrated and malnourished, 7-month-old Sahra is comforted by her grandmother at the Mansour Childrens' Hospital in Baghdad in 1998.
Empire Burlesque, December 29, 2010
One of the most important books published in 2010 -- or indeed, in this century -- was Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions. As I noted here a few months ago, Professor Joy Gordon's "detailed, richly sourced and morally horrifying account of the sanctions era must be read to be believed. However bad you thought it was, the reality was much worse."
The latter statement is one of the key elements of the book's importance. Even if you are one of the very few who have made yourself aware of the reality of this vast crime against humanity -- digging out whatever nuggets of truth you could glean from the mountainous slagheap of lies and myth and amnesia that bury it -- you will be staggered by the picture of cold-blooded inhumanity that Gordon brings to light. (I have also written about the book in this post, which highlights a powerful review of Gordon's book by Patrick Cockburn, who added even more detail.)
Earlier this month, the UN Security Council formally voted to lift the 20-year-old sanctions against Iraq. Having launched a Hitlerite war of aggression against the country, plunging it into a living hell that has taken the lives of more than one million innocent people, displaced millions more and spread disease, ruin, terrorism, extremism and tyranny across the conquered land, the great defenders of Civilization in Washington lauded themselves for their magnificent act of clemency and mercy in ending the sanctions regime.
The story was little-noted at the time, but Professor Gordon noticed it, and penned a striking piece for the Capital Times, which also serves as an excellent introduction to her book -- and as a reminder of the continuing, murderous hypocrisy of our bipartisan elite. Below are some excerpts. And remember: much of this deadly record occurred under the "enlightened" leadership of our last "progressive" president, the Democrat's beloved Big Dawg himself, Bill Clinton -- whose wife now directs America's foreign policy. From Gordon:
Last week the U.N. Security Council voted to lift the sanctions that it imposed on Iraq 20 years ago. Vice President Joe Biden hailed the occasion as "an end to the burdensome remnants of the dark era of Saddam Hussein."
What he did not say was that the sanctions were more than burdensome. They triggered a humanitarian crisis that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children, and the collapse of every system necessary to sustain human life in a modern society. And he certainly did not mention that among all the nations on the Security Council, it was the U.S. -- and the U.S. alone -- that ensured that this human damage would be massive and indiscriminate.
... The U.S. policies were extreme and relentless. The U.S. blocked refrigeration for medicines, on the grounds that refrigerators might be used to store agents for biological weapons ... The U.S. blocked child vaccines and yogurt-making equipment on the grounds that the Iraqi government might use them to make weapons of mass destruction. ... The U.S. prevented Iraq from importing water tankers during a period of drought, while there were epidemic levels of sickness from drinking water unfit for human consumption. ... At one point, a U.S. official came before the 661 Committee with a vial of cat litter, and informed the members, in all seriousness: "This could be used to stabilize anthrax."
No one else found the U.S. justifications to be plausible. UNMOVIC, the U.N.’s weapons inspectors, disputed many of the U.S. justifications for blocking humanitarian goods. ... Still, the U.S. rarely relented.
The U.S. insisted that these policies were aimed at Saddam Hussein. But it was obvious that they had little to do with him. Iraq’s political and military leadership, and the wealthy elite, were insulated from the hardship. But the population as a whole was not.
To destroy a country’s infrastructure, to reduce a nation to a pre-industrial condition and then keep it in that state, means precisely that it will be unfit to sustain human life. The reports of U.N. agencies and international organizations such as the Red Cross ensured that U.S. officials knew, with certainty, exactly what harm was being caused by U.S. policies.
While Vice President Biden tells the world that the end of the sanctions means that Iraq can now move forward to a bright future, what he does not say is that in fact there was damage that was irreversible, including child deaths and stunted growth from years of malnutrition. What he also does not say is that the rest of the damage -- the collapse of the infrastructure, the terrible deterioration in industry, agriculture, electricity, health and education -- was not just due to Saddam Hussein’s indifference. However much harm Saddam did to the Iraqi people, the U.S., for over a decade, made it far, far worse.
These excerpts are just part of the story. You should read the whole article, then read the book. As our public life -- and our common humanity -- become more and more degraded by the relentless, howling maelstrom of lies and meaningless inanity that pours down on our heads day after day, the task of preserving our historical memory -- the record of reality -- becomes more urgent all the time. Professor Gordon has performed an heroic task in reclaiming the story of this atrocity from the efforts of our corporate and militarist and political elites to erase it.